Category Archives: Uncategorized

When do churches grow?

 

What “causes” churches to grow is a different but related question. For the moment, I’m wondering about what else is true concurrently with church growth. Here’s a partial list that comes to mind. What would you add?

  • When they are brand new, and the leadership is focused almost exclusively on reaching new people and inviting them to walk together in life transforming faith. 
  • When they become “the popular thing”  
  • When they have enough name or brand recognition that people are drawn there  
  • When the participants are enthusiastic and motivated to invite neighbors and friends 
  • When the participants have a desire and motivation to see people come to renewing faith in Jesus 
  • When there is a major crisis in the community or world and people “need” church 
  • When God’s Holy Spirit does something in a community, a church, or its leaders. 
  • When they are responding to people’s felt needs. This is initially neutral. Could be need for divorce or grief recovery. Could be need for entertainment and distraction and confirming my biases and prejudices. Either way, it works, at least initially.
  • When they engage people in ways that help them find deep meaning, purpose and healing. 
  • When they are able to engage newcomers into relationship (individually AND in groups) that help them experience hospitality, friendship, service and spiritual growth.
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Lessons from Leadership Struggles

Trying to form a theologically diverse community – harder than I thought…

 

Vital Ministry Webinar: Rev. Justin Hancock

LINK TO OUR WEBINARS PAGE HERE.

Justin Hancock in chancelWHEN: Thursday, May 26, 1:30 pm CDT

TOPIC: Our guest will be Rev. Justin Hancock, MDiv.

The topic is “Disability, Ministry and The Church – beyond inclusion and accessibility.” Justin will help us explore new ways of understanding disability, how to think and talk about it in the church, and how the disabled and no disabled can form communities of mutuality and reciprocity.

HOW:  We use the Zoom.us platform for our webinars. You can connect via computer, mobile device or phone. Instructions are available here.
(NOTE: you will need to download and install the zoom app, which takes a few minutes, in advance of the 1:30 start time.)

MORE ABOUT REV. HANCOCK:
Justin leads The Julian Way, a ministry to the church and the community that affirms the God-given embodiment of each person and the importance of true community as a means of enabling all people to progress toward their fullness in God. Justin and his wife Lisa (a PHD candidate in systematic theology and disability at SMU) live in intentional Christian community as part of the Missional Wisdom Fndn (MissionalWisdom.com). You can find Justin on Facebook at @TheJulWay – ( https://m.facebook.com/TheJulWay/ )

Hear directly from Justin on his The Julian Way Youtube Channel

Vital Ministry Webinar with Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer

LINK TO OUR WEBINARS PAGE HERE.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 18th, 1:30 pm CDT.

TOPIC: Rev. Dorhauer will share his latest thoughts related to his recent book Beyond Resistance: The Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World. Following the presentation we will have time for discussion on a range of topics.

HOW:  We use the Zoom.us platform for our webinars. You can connect via computer, mobile device or phone. Instructions are available here.
(NOTE: you will need to download and install the zoom app, which takes a few minutes, in advance of the 1:30 start time.)

MORE ABOUT JOHN:  In June of 2015, Rev. Dorhauer was elected to serve as General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. He is the author of two books, Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right Is Hijacking Mainstream Religion  and Beyond Resistance: The Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World. He also publishes on Huffington Post.

See the book on Amazon now.

Book description from Amazon:

Beyond Resistance is a template for those devoted to the the idea that faith should be just, generous and inspire commitment to the common good. The rise of postmodernity and its influence on the expression of faith are not the cause of religion’s perceived diminishment in capacity, relevance, and impact. To the contrary, both the Institutional Church and those who hold faith in a postmodern key can—and should—be allies in a common cause. What is unfolding is nothing short of a second Reformation, and this Reformation (unlike the previous one) can unite both the change agents and the changing institution as partners on the same playing field. This book addresses the realities faced by what too many have called a dying institution. It is a call to move the institutional church out of a modality of denial and into a perspective of hope; out of a paradigm of scarcity and into a world of possibility with a growing multiplicity of options and allies; out of a time of end-game scenarios where only the fit will survive, and into what James Carse calls an “Infinite Game,” where those who play ensure that the game continues long after they have left the field.

 

Bio from HuffPost:

John grew up Roman Catholic, and spent eight years studying for the priesthood before choosing another pathway. He met and married Mimi, and a few years later attended Eden Seminary and getting ordained into the United Church of Christ. He served two churches in outstate Missouri for 15 years. From there, he served as Associate Conference Minister on staff in Missouri, and then seven years as Conference Minister for the United Church of Christ in the Southwest. In June of 2015, he was elected to serve as General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. He is the author of two books, “Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right Is Hijacking Mainstream Religion:;” and “Beyond Resistance: The Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World.” He is the recipient of Eden Seminary’s Shalom Award, given by the student body for a lifetime commitment to peace and justice. He has a Doctoral degree in White Privilege studies, witha focus on how white privilege affects the church. Father of three and grandfather of one, married to Mimi now for 31 years, John finds much joy and pride in and with his family. He is an avid biker and baseball fan.

Download the official Bio from UCC.org.

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.trust in the slow work of god
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We would like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet, it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability –
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time,
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ:
This is from the wonderful little prayer book titled Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits. It’s a great book – highly recommended.

VOCATION – Finding Your Voice

what is vocationYour vocation is “The voice with which your life speaks things into existence in the world.” This idea derives from the Latin etymology – vocare (to call) and vox (voice). The Hebrew text from Genesis 1 describes how God’s voice creates all that we know, including humanity, who are made in God’s image. We reason then that our lives also create things for good in the world, and this voice is our vocation. We actually have multiple vocations in our lives through the various relationship, occupations, hobbies and other ways that we engage the world.

There are many different individual and group practices than can help us to discern and develop our vocations. Over the coming months we will share some of those techniques here, and others will be presented in our workshops. You can also find them listed on our Facebook Page @iVitalMinistry.

____________________________

The Fredrick Buechner Center offers the following excerpt:

Vocation

IT COMES FROM the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.

Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

– Originally published in Wishful Thinking

Ride the monster down

In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop with them farther over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. It is not learned.